"An invisible red thread connects those who are destined to meet regardless of time, place or circumstance.The thread may stretch or tangle, but it will never break." -Chinese proverb

Friday, September 28, 2012

Goodbye China...almost (day 14)

In a few hours, we will be hopping on our train to Hong Kong and then flying back to the good ol' USA tomorrow morning.  I feel excitement to be going back home, dread for the long travel back, sadness for leaving the birthplace and home of our beautiful new daughter, and hope that our life as a family of five will gain some normalcy once we settle back in at home.  There have been so many ups and downs on this trip but we have been so blessed for how well it has gone.  I can't believe our journey to Liana is almost over however our journey with Liana is just beginning.  I'm so excited to see how she blossoms and how she adjusts to having a forever family.  She has changed so much from the day we got her.  She's walking much better and getting stronger every day, she eats more easily and isn't always holding a bite in her mouth when we're done, she smiles all the time, she gives us a little bit of sass, she teases Erik all the time, she grabs my finger to drag me around new places and she's learning so many new words.  She can already say mama, baba, Ella, ge ge (big brother), more, no, and that.  She's adjusting so well and gaining so much confidence but it's not all sunshine and roses.  As well as she's doing, I feel something lacking in how she is with me.  She seems to trust me and know that I will fulfill her needs but I sometimes just feel like I'm just another "mama" in a long line of mamas that she has had.  I know, that's to be expected at this point but it's not easy.  We knew that this would be the case because she's never had a family before.  She's had countless nannies and this is all new to her.  We can't explain that we are her mommy and daddy and we will be forever and ever.  Well, we can and we do but she can't understand that yet.  I have been surprised to see that her bond with Ella and Ethan is slow-going.  Ella dotes on her all day long and just loves her so much but Liana could take her or leave her at this point, which makes me sad for Ella.  Ethan is having a very tough time.  He is pretty angry about this new child coming into the family and it breaks my heart.  We walk this balance of needing to discipline him for how he treats Liana to wanting to just hug him up and tell him that we love him just as much as we ever did.  So, we do both.  It's been tough on him.  He hasn't really traveled anywhere and this trip in itself would be tough on anyone but then, losing his spot as "the baby", gaining a sister and a large scar on the back of his head, it's no wonder it has been tough for him.  I asked Erik yesterday if there has been any times that he has regretted bringing the kids.  I held my breath as I waited for his answer, which was no and it's the same for me.  We knew that it would be hard and in some ways it has been harder but in many ways, it's actually been easier than we expected.  Life is changing big-time for us and for them and we are glad that they were there from the start.  I can almost say that we survived but there's the whole going home thing yet to come so we'll see if we survive that. :-)  I'm thankful for everyone's comments to me on this blog, it has felt like a piece of home in this strange place and I can't tell you all how much those comments meant to me and how much I needed the encouragement and support.  Thanks for reading and following along with our journey.  I promise to post again as soon as I can once we are home.

Not too exciting but here are a few pics from today...

Blankie, Corduroy bear and his thumb...he's needing a lot of comfort these days

Who would have ever thought Ella's Lovey would go to China?  Filthy thing looks like she's seen it all

Another pretty church in Guangzhou

Thursday, September 27, 2012

CA, what more can I say? (day 13)

This morning, we had our U.S. consulate appointment (CA).  This was the last thing we needed to do for the adoption on this trip!  Hallelujah!  We survived all of the official appointments with a 5 year old and two 2 year olds!  The CA is the thing that your whole trip is scheduled around and the whole thing is no big deal.  We got there at 8:30 and walked out at 9:15.  Done.  You go in a little room with a bunch of chairs and some toys in the back, all of the parents stand up and raise their right hand and take an oath, repeating what, one sentence?, that a women behind a window is saying on a microphone.  Then, they call each family up and look at your papers for a couple of minutes and if everything is in order, they give you a receipt and you're done.  That's it?  That's it!  Kind of anti-climactic but we'll take it!  You can't bring cameras in there but we got a picture downstairs afterwards.  So we came back to the hotel and celebrated with Starbucks and playing at the hotel playground.

After naps, we wandered around and tried to shop but were unsuccessful.  We came back to the hotel, put on the kids' new Chinese outfits and took some pictures of them.  Then we had dinner at a restaurant in the hotel, watched a little Cars and put the kids to bed. 

It's almost time to come home!  We get Liana's visa tomorrow and then take a train to Hong Kong, where we will spend the night and then fly home the next day!

An awkward start

Love this one!  Doesn't the background look fake?  This is at the play area in our hotel!
Love, love, love <3

She said that her and Liana were "Asian girls" :-)

He's saying, "Kung Fu Panda!"

Little Chinese princess

 No silk dress for me but I had to jump in for one pic

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Shopping on Shamian (day 12)

Today was a day for shopping.  We went to Shamian Island, which is where most adoptive families used to stay so it's really geared toward adoptive families.  You can buy awesome souvenirs for great prices so we loaded up.  We spent some time at the park there first and got some pictures with the usual sculptures that everyone takes photos with.  Then, we had lunch at Lucy's which has some great Western food.  I had a BLT and it was nice to have something familiar.  Even McDonald's tastes a little different here.  So, after lunch, we went shopping.  There were a couple of places that I  had heard were great places to shop at so that's where we went.  We went to this store called Michael's first.  Michael was actually the one who did our laundry.  Him and his wife are very sweet people and have two sons, which is unheard of in China with the one child policy.  I didn't get a chance to ask them about it but I'm sure they had to pay a lot of money to be able to keep their second son.  We bought several traditional silk dresses for Liana in different sizes and one for Ella, an outfit for Ethan, a couple of pairs of shoes to go with the girls' dresses, a fan, a porcelain tea set and a bunch of other fun things to give Liana throughout the years on, as another family called it, her adoption-versary.  Next, we went to Jenny's, which is known for cheap squeaky shoes.  Jenny was also very sweet.  I bought a couple of pairs of squeaky shoes for Liana and a whole bunch of other stuff.  Jenny kept saying that we were good customers and gave each of the kids a free little toy and gave me a bracelet, which I will save for Liana.  Apparently, I have good taste as it is a Shanghai style bracelet.  Perfect for our little Shanghai sweetie.  After just those two shops, we were done and it was time to come back to the hotel for naps.  We ordered pizza for dinner so we could just relax in our room and then we swam in the pool again. 

We're all getting homesick.  Most of the families are heading home tomorrow because they already had their consulate appointments.  Ours is tomorrow and I'm ready to get it done with, get Liana's visa and go home.  We're the only Holt family with a Thursday consulate appointment, which is the last day of the week that they do them.  I realize how lucky we are that we were able to get one at all this month and I know that we got one of the last appointments of the month.  I feel so extremely blessed that we aren't still waiting for our turn to go to China.  We have our daughter, she's sleeping right next to me in a playpen!  It still amazes me.  China is amazing and I know we'll miss it but Texas is sounding really good to me right now. 

Argh...can't add any pictures tonight because our connection is just too slow.  Sorry. :-(   I'll try to come back and add them to this post sometime tomorrow.

As promised, and after some work with this freaking computer on Erik's part and tears on mine (yes, I'm a basketcase right now, I admit it), here are the pictures.

 A Catholic church, in China!

This, I can do

This...I'm uh, not so sure...?

Always the performer, Ella started dancing in the middle of the park to a nearby singing group. 

There are always models being photographed in bridal gowns on the island.

A little sibling time in jammies before bed

My handsome boy

EDITED TO ADD:  I had started this post before Erik "hi-jacked" my blog and then came straight back to it and didn't see his post.  He gives me too much credit but I appreciate it.  Thanks Erik <3


This is Erik, Sarahs husband and partner along this journey.  Sarah's taking a well deserved bath right now so i figured I would take this opportunity to hijack her blog and give a different perspective...

A coach told me once that you should always give credit where credit is due.  Well all of the credit for this amazing blessing that is sleeping right now next to our bed and for the two others sleeping just steps away all goes to Sarah.  Without Sarah's heart for wanting to start this process or smarts to navigate us through all of the required paper work, none of this would be possible.  She has been amazing these past 12 months juggling the demands of this adoption allong with her demanding day job and deserves all of the credit that she gets. 

This trip has been a challenge in its self  for us all with just the logistics and time change and grumpy kids and new environment.  That in itself is enough to make me want to rock myself in the corner, but she has to deal with all of that feeling miserable with her cough and rib injusry to boot.  An amazing woman.

She is one amazing woman and I thank God every day that he brought her into my life to share all of these precious moments with me.  I definatelly do not deserve such a graceful gift but will take advantage of it for ever!



Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Walmart, whining (mine) and wet (day 11)

Today, there was nothing scheduled for us so we were on our own, which was nice except we needed diapers, wipes, formula, etc.  Big fun.  So, we went to Walmart.  Walmart in China is a little confusing but thankfully, we were able to find Huggies diapers and Liana's brand of formula.  The orphanage gave us a huge can which will last until we get home but we want some for home to wean her off of until we can switch her completely to formula that we can buy at home and then to plain old milk.  She probably could switch to whatever we want to switch her too anyways because the girl will take anything we give her, at least with food.  She eats everything!  There has not been one thing that she has turned down from us and we have fed her a lot of stuff, most of which she's probably never had before.  Some things that I'm not even sure what they are.  The nannies told us several times to only feed her soft foods and a teeny bit at a time because of her esophageal hiatus hernia because they said she will throw up.  It was pretty clear right away that she was a very inexperienced eater because she was not very good at chewing.  She must have mostly been given bottles and babyish food.  Being a mom the third time around, I'm not as careful as I was with Ella about what goes in.  I know this sounds irresponsible considering her hernia, however, I have talked to two different doctors about it and neither of them seem very concerned about it.  I guess China is much more prone to surgery for children who have really bad reflux, where in the U.S. doctors might just put them on medicine.  So who knows if she really needed the surgery she had.  We were told that she relapsed and needs another surgery but the doctors I talked to don't really think so.  We started off very slowly but from what I've seen so far, she is doing great!  We have fed her so many different foods...chicken, sausage, hamburger, french toast and of course noodles, noodles and more noodles...nothing hard because she doesn't chew as well as your typical two year old but she has not thrown up or even spit up once.  Not even a little bit!  She's getting better at chewing and is just an awesome eater! 

After naps, we walked to this nearby park.  It surrounds a lake and is beautiful.  There's a part that has carnival rides but it was closed, which ticked Ella off so we headed back to the hotel and went swimming, finally.  We've been wanting to swim this whole time but couldn't because of Ethan's stitches.  It was dark by the time we got to the pool so we went swimming in the dark.  Liana was hesitant at first because the water was cold but after splashing her feet for a while, we went in and she loved it!  We have another water baby on our hands!  Ethan just jumped right in, no hesitation.  He is amazing in the water.  Completely fearless!  Ella had a blast too and was swimming circles around the rest of us. 

I am a bit of a disaster physically right now.  I have had a cough for about 4 weeks.  A really nasty cough that sends me into coughing fits where I just cannot stop coughing.  I went to the doctor a few days before we left for China and got some antibiotics.  I thought that would be the that and I didn't even pack daytime cold medicine for us grown-ups.  Stupid me!  Whatever you don't pack is what you're going to need.  The antibiotics didn't even touch my cough, in fact, it got much, much worse.  In the last couple of days, it is finally starting to get better.  The part that sucks now is on my left side, I started having these terrible muscle pains around my ribs a few days ago and it is killing me.  It hurts when I cough, move my left arm, breathe deeply, sniff...anything.  Erik Google-diagnosed me as coughing so hard and so much that my muscles began to tear away from my ribs.  Sounds about right because I knew the coughing is what caused it.  I would cough so hard that I couldn't stop and I was always so sore afterwards around my ribs.  I guess coughing for four weeks straight is bound to have some consequences.  I managed to find some Robitussin at Walmart today.  Of course, it's in Chinese so I don't know exactly how much to take but filling the cup to the top line is always a safe bet, right? 

The other thing that I didn't pack that I regret is hydrocortisone cream.  I meant to buy some but I just forgot.  Liana has these terrible itchy spots all over her body which we think are from scabies.  Luckily, her pediatrician gave me a prescription for scabies cream and I do think it's helping but it takes a while before the itchy spots stop itching.  The scabies cream is just to kill the scabies, not help with the itching.  Thanks to other adoptive mamas, however, I now have oatmeal bath for her to bathe in and some hydrocortisone cream.  Thank you, other mamas!  The thing that ticked me off is, of course, Liana had these spots the day we got her but the next day at the notary's office, just when we were leaving, the notary noticed them and she and the orphanage director told me that we should take her to the hospital.  No one was concerned when we brought it up and asked questions but at the notary, they are all of a sudden concerned.  If the orphanage had taken care of it before we got her, we wouldn't be dealing with it now.  And no way are we taking her to a hospital here for it.  No way.  They tried to claim that they were mosquito bites when I asked questions.  These are not mosquito bites.  If they are, she is very allergic to mosquitoes.  This is why you come prepared when you adopt a child from China.  You never know what they might have when you get them.  And that's why I packed  pretty much everything we could have possibly needed, even antibiotics for Liana, if needed.  But of course none of the things that I packed are the things that I need and I forgot the things that I do need, well except for scabies cream.  I did have that!

Where's Liana?
 There she is!

Think it'll fit?

Our little strawberry

 Are you crazy, Mama?!

Oh, this isn't so bad.

 Scary pic of Ella and Ethan

Swimming with Baba

 Silly Daddy and his girls

Monday, September 24, 2012

Lions and tigers and bears...oh my! (day 10)

Today was busy!  We had to get Liana's TB test read this morning so we met the other families downstairs at 9:30 and went back to the medical clinic.  Results: negative...woohoo!  Then, those of us who wanted to took one of the buses to the Safari Park while the others went back to the hotel.  Of the 15 families, only 4 wanted to go.  When we were waiting before the TB results, one of the fathers who wasn't going to the Safari Park was talking about us taking our kids to the Safari Park and well...bringing Ella and Ethan on this trip at all and he said that we were bold.  Ha!  That is definitely not the word that comes to mind when I think of us bringing our 5 year old and 2 year old to China to adopt our new 2 year old.  Stupid, maybe but bold?  Nah.  The Safari Park trip was a no brainer!  But I know why most of the families didn't go.  We were gone from 9:30 this morning until 5:30 this evening.  No naps and most of the day spent in horrible heat and humidity.  And I'm no wuss, I lived through the hottest summer ever in Texas!  But this heat, oh my word, it was brutal. 

So, the Safari Park....awesome.  We walked around and saw giraffes, albino wallabies, flamingos, koala bears and panda bears!  PANDA BEARS!  I have never seen a panda bear before and they were just as adorable as I imagined they would be.  I have a new favorite animal.  The koalas were adorable too.  Aww...so cute!  And we threw bananas to the elephants and then they sprayed us with water.  In that heat, Ella, Ethan and I were getting as close to the nasty water coming from an elephant trunk as we could.  Anything to cool off!  Okay, actually it was just fun to be sprayed at by an elephant.  I'm eight.  :-)  Then we fed giraffes a branch of leaves.  Our giraffe stole ours right away while everyone else held their branches like champs until all the leaves were gone.  After walking around for hours, we hopped on a little tram to see the other part of the park.  Honestly, I just wanted to be done but it was so worth it.  This is where the safari part comes in.  You just drive through all of these animals and the tram gets blocked by camels or zebras or whatever crossing it's path.  And then there are tigers, bears, lions, wolves on the sides so close to the tram and the only thing separating them and us are a couple of electric wires.  The staff keeps the animals out being fun to look at by feeding them.  There was a man in with all of these hippos just surrounded by them throwing food to them and from what I've always heard, hippos are pretty scary.  Better him than me, I guess.  Toward the end of our ride, thunder started rumbling in the distance and the next thing we knew, we were caught in a downpoar.  It was fine because we were under cover but when the ride was over, we had to book it for the exit.  We were all soaked when we got on the bus but it was a relief from the heat anyways. 

The bus dropped all of us at the hotel except for Ethan, Erik and our guide because they had to go to the hospital to get Ethan's stitches out.  I had to get out with everyone else because our laundry was being delivered to the hotel soon (oh, happy day...clean clothes!).  It went quickly and they actually got back before our laundry made it to the hotel.  Another mom was asking about Ethan's owie and as we were telling her about how he got it, she did a little more questioning than I had about these shots that they had given Ethan when he got his stitches.  I assumed that one was before the stitches so that he wouldn't feel them.  I was wrong.  I never asked many details about what happened at the hospital because I could tell Erik didn't want to tell me and I was too afraid to ask.  It turns out, our poor two year old boy received his first stitches ever without anything to deaden the pain, in a hospital in China where the doctors are not gentle at all like they are in the states.  I freaked out when I found this out.  They didn't give him any shots until after the stitches.  I took the kids upstairs while Erik waited for our laundry and I hugged Ethan and lost it.  I cried and told him that I was so sorry that he had to go through that and I was so sorry that I wasn't there.  He patted my arm and reassured me, "Stitches out!  I all better!  I'm sorry, Mommy!"  There I go again.  I just can't believe it.  And you should see his wound.  It looks terrible.  They aren't even sure if they got all of the stitches because there's this huge scab on it.  The wound is big and there were only 3 stitches.  I got a very small cut earlier this year on my hand and it needed a couple of stitches so him only having three is ridiculous.  Our guide was telling me that there were only stitches on part of it and the other part was just left.  I am so angry.  I expected that they wouldn't be as kind or gentle as we are used to but I didn't expect that they would make a little toddler boy get stitches without anything to help with the pain and not even give him enough stitches for it to heal like it should.  Can I just say how glad I am that Liana is coming home with us now?!  I have heard horror stories of hospitals in China and I did not want any of us to need one while we were here.  Now you can see why.  My poor baby! 

Okay, I need to end on a happy note so I will tell you a little bit about Erik and Liana.  She loves her daddy and thinks he is just hilarious!  He is, of course, the goofball play buddy while I am the cuddle you, take care of you mommy.  Last night is the perfect illustration of their relationship.  Erik put Liana to bed and when he laid her down, she kept popping back up in the crib.  When he went to her crib to try and lay her back down and tell her to go to sleep, I assume firmly, she just started cracking up as soon as she saw him, before he could say a thing.  I mean, busting up like he was seriously tickling her or something.  I snickered at him and said that he really has a firm hand with Liana.  She has got her daddy wrapped around her little finger, for sure! 

 Canton Tower-the tallest structure in China

 Throwing bananas to the elephants

 Get ready for cuteness!

 Me and my cubs

 Baby red panda
 Red panda
 Feeding a giraffe
 Thieving giraffe